In an era in which a nostalgia-themed pop is a safe bet for commercial success, Denver duo Tennis do nothing risky, but they certainly deserve a respectful nod for their considerable talent and charm. Their new album Ritual in Reverse is one of the better-crafted pop albums of the year. Alaina Moore’s honeyed voice doesn’t necessarily have any exceptional differentiating quality to it, but it certainly exemplifies just the kind of talent that used to be heard more commonly in pop and popular country. Look to the cautiously romantic acoustic ballad “Wounded Heart” to get my meaning. Patrick Riley’s guitar-work is sunny and catchy—he is obviously at his best making nice riffs for summer-days-on-the-west-coast dance music. Every now and then, though, he throws some tinny, reverb-soaked figures in the mix that almost sound like a rock guitar, as on the closer “Meter & Line.” However, Moore’s own crafty work on keys equally contributes to the arrangements and shouldn’t be underestimated.
The lyrics on this record are sentimental and really rather sweet. I like this stuff much more than Best Coast, I think. I also ought to note that Tennis have acknowledged in interviews that they were urged to make music by the sudden popularity of “sunny pop,” and that they’re basically okay with this label. I often find that sort of music to be kind of boring, but I responded positively to this. Considering the fact that perhaps the only “carefree pop” record I responded strongly to from the past few years was Last Summer by Eleanor Friedberger, I might be a little too picky to be a good judge, but Ritual in Reverse is a nice record and I wish Tennis luck with it. »
– Matthew Sweeney